Islet cell cancer is a term used to describe a group of cancers that can occur in the hormone-producing cells of the pancreas. Islet cell cancers, also known as pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, are very rare.

Islet cells are small hormone-producing cells normally found in your pancreas. Islet cell cancer arises from these cells. Some islet cell cancer cells continue to secrete hormones, creating too much of the given hormone in your body. Examples of these types of islet cell cancers include gastrinoma and glucagonoma.

  • Team approach. At Mayo Clinic, you'll receive coordinated care from a team of doctors and health care professionals. Mayo Clinic doctors work together to provide you with the best care possible for islet cell cancer, tailored to your needs.
  • Expertise with rare cancers. Mayo Clinic surgeons' unique knowledge and skill is invaluable for people with islet cell cancer.
  • Newest technology. Mayo Clinic makes extensive use of the newest technology to improve chances for positive outcomes.
  • A full range of treatment options to consider. Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with islet cell cancer includes surgery, targeted therapy and radiofrequency ablation.
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Mayo Clinic surgeons and other health care professionals work together to develop an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan for you. The treatment team for people with islet cell cancer includes specialists in hematology and oncology, radiation oncology, gastroenterology and hepatology, endocrinology, general surgery, transplantation medicine, nuclear medicine, interventional radiology, and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Mayo Clinic surgeons and other health care professionals work together to develop an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan for you. The treatment team for people with islet cell cancer includes specialists in gastroenterology, endocrinology, general surgery, transplantation surgery, interventional radiology, radiation oncology and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

Mayo Clinic surgeons and other health care professionals work together to develop an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan for you. People with islet cell cancers are generally seen in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Their care is managed by a multidisciplinary team of doctors interested in pancreatic diseases, including specialists in oncology, radiation oncology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, general surgery, transplantation surgery, nuclear medicine, interventional radiology and pathology.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose islet cell cancer include:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal excess hormones or other signs of an islet cell cancer.
  • Urine tests. Analysis of your urine may reveal breakdown products that result when your body processes hormones.
  • Imaging tests. Imaging tests help your doctor look for abnormalities in your pancreas, such as islet cell cancer.

    Imaging tests may include ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and somatostatin receptor scintigraphy, which uses a radioactive hormone that is taken up by islet cell cancers.
  • Endoscopy. During endoscopy, a thin tube with a camera on the end is passed down your throat and into your stomach and small intestine. Special tools can be passed through the tube to collect a tissue sample (biopsy).

    Endoscopy can be combined with imaging tests, such as ultrasound (endoscopic ultrasound) and X-ray (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography).
  • Surgery. In some cases your doctor may recommend minimally invasive surgery to obtain a tissue sample for testing. During laparoscopy, the surgeon makes several small incisions in your abdomen, through which special tools and a tiny camera are inserted. The surgeon then looks for signs of cancer and may collect a tissue sample.
  • Biopsy. If cancer has spread to your liver, lymph nodes or other locations, a needle may be used to collect cells for analysis.

Treatment for islet cell cancer varies based on the types of cells involved in your cancer, the extent of your cancer, your preferences and your overall health. Options may include:

  • Surgery. If islet cell cancer is confined to the pancreas, treatment usually includes surgery. For cancer that occurs in the tail of the pancreas, surgery may involve removing the tail of the pancreas (distal pancreatectomy), leaving the head portion intact. Cancer that affects the head of the pancreas may require a Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy), which involves removing the cancer and part or most of your pancreas.
  • Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses medications that are specially designed to target certain cancer cells. Targeted therapy is used to treat certain advanced or recurrent islet cell cancers. Targeted therapy is a type of biological therapy for cancer.
  • Radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation involves applying energy waves to cancer cells, causing them to heat up and die.
  • Treatment for cancer that spreads to the liver. Islet cell cancer most often spreads to the liver and several treatments exist for this. Options include treatment to block blood flow to liver tumors (hepatic artery occlusion), treatment to deliver chemotherapy directly to the liver (chemoembolization), treatment to deliver radiation directly to the liver (radioembolization) and liver transplant.
  • Chemotherapy. In certain situations, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy.

Mayo Clinic doctors and researchers are studying new ways to care for people with islet cell cancers. Cancer research is conducted in coordination with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center receives funding from the National Cancer Institute and is designated as a comprehensive cancer center — recognition for an institution's scientific excellence and multidisciplinary resources focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic authors on islet cell cancer on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

May 21, 2013